This guilty plea resulted from an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in cooperation with the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force (SWMCCTF), the Cassville (Mo.) Police Department and the Howell County (Mo.) Sheriff's Department.
Scott Allen Johnson, 26, of West Plains, Mo., pleaded guilty to the charges contained in an Aug. 29 federal indictment.
A task force officer identified Johnson's computer associated with sharing images of child pornography on a peer-to-peer file-sharing network Dec. 30, 2011. The officer made another connection to Johnson's computer on the network Jan. 9, 2012, and determined that Johnson had 322 files available for sharing, of which 139 were identified as previously known files depicting child sexual abuse. Law enforcement authorities executed a search warrant at Johnson's residence Feb. 9 and seized a laptop computer, four desktop computers and 42 optical media disks.
Investigators found 219 images and 46 movie files of child pornography on the laptop computer. The ages of the child victims ranged from 2 to 12 years old. The images depicted graphic and sexually explicit child pornography.
Under federal statutes, Johnson is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, up to a sentence of 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000. Johnson will also forfeit the computer used to distribute and possess child pornography. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the U.S. Probation Office completes a pre-sentence investigation.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.